Following two years of co-development with founding members and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food (MAF), the BC Indigenous Advisory Council on Agriculture and Food (IACAF) was inaugurated in June 2021 and launched a 3-year strategic plan (2021-2024) to advance equitable participation of Indigenous Peoples in the food and agriculture sector and support the realization of their food security, food sovereignty and economic development objectives. The IACAF meets on a quarterly basis to dialogue with MAF on priorities and issues impacting Indigenous Peoples and to implement their strategic plan. Work undertaken by the IACAF in 2022/23 (Year 2 of the Strategic Plan) builds on research and information gathering projects sponsored by the IACAF in Year 1 and advances work in new areas. Highlights include the following: four meetings with MAF; advice and guidance on the creation and design of a $1.14 million pilot funding program to support Indigenous food systems; commissioning mapping and survey work on Indigenous food and agriculture initiatives in B.C.; hosting a gathering to support networking and strategic co-ordination among Indigenous-led organizations supporting Indigenous food and agriculture and MAF; and commissioning the first video in a planned series to profile and celebrate Indigenous food and agriculture. The IACAF’s advice on priorities and approaches to support Indigenous Peoples’ food systems has also informed MAF’s prioritization and design of substantial new Indigenous food systems programming to be launched in 2023/24.
The Indigenous Food Systems and Agriculture Partnership Program (IFSAP) was launched in Fall 2022 and resulted in $1.14 million of approved funding for 15 Indigenous food systems and agriculture projects. Program design incorporated recommendations from the IACAF to reduce barriers to access and increase the efficacy of funding through larger projects and board eligible activity criteria that included infrastructure costs, which previously were ineligible under other ministry funding programs. A $30 million contribution to New Relationship Trust to develop and implement a 3-year Indigenous food sovereignty funding program was confirmed at the end of fiscal year 2022/23. This funding program represents the largest single MAF investment in Indigenous food systems to date and will action a recommendation from the IACAF and other Indigenous partners to transition to Indigenous-led funding design and delivery.
The IACAF and MAF have agreed on three process indicators as marks of progress.
- Number of meetings and engagements held: Four quarterly meetings (two virtual and two in-person) with council and ministry staff and senior executive have taken place, as well as three ad hoc meetings. Meetings have included sessions with Indigenous-led organizations, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada and other provincial ministries.
- Number of implementation projects underway: Three IACAF-sponsored projects have been completed in 2022/23 to advance strategic plan priorities, including a mapping and survey project of Indigenous food and agriculture initiatives, a video profiling the IACAF and a gathering of Indigenous-led organizations supporting Indigenous food systems.
- Recommendations actioned: Eight significant recommendations from the IACAF have been actioned in 2022/23 through new program design and delivery and three projects to advance strategic plan priorities. Most significantly, recommendations include increase funding to support Indigenous food systems, broadening eligible activities, prioritizing Indigenous-led service delivery and designing for low barrier access. Transversal to these recommendations and other advice that MAF is actioning, is to adopt a decolonizing approach to Indigenous food systems that reflects Indigenous Peoples’ food sovereignty, self-determined priorities, distinct approaches, the interconnected role of food in providing cultural, social, environmental and economic well-being and that rejects the deep, long standing colonial bias and racism reflected in definitions and approaches to agriculture.
How are we working together?
The IACAF meets on a quarterly basis with MAF to provide advice and guidance on the Minister’s approach to Declaration Act implementation and to work together on IACAF strategic plan implementation, primarily through projects related to IACAF’s priority action areas.
Are there challenges?
Risks include data deficiencies or underutilized processes of risk identification and management, adequate time, resourcing and capacity to engage, develop shared objectives, priorities and goals and adequately communicate and advance those objectives, priorities and goals within MAF and to other provincial and federal agencies and partners. IACAF and MAF co-ordination and project implementation continue to be advanced through regular meetings and project planning and execution.
Time and competing priorities of MAF and IACAF members and adequate, secure Secretariat and Indigenous organization and partner resourcing and capacity to action IACAF strategic plan implementation are other obstacles to progress on this goal. Additionally, current funding through the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation’s Indigenous Funding Program is not guaranteed year over year and is not confirmed until several months into the new fiscal year, which risk delays in planning and executing IACAF activities.